Mann gone, Thompson returns

Wide receiver Maurice Mann heads upfield after making a catch against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at...

Wide receiver Maurice Mann heads upfield after making a catch against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Commonwealth Stadium last season. The Eskimos traded Mann to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Tuesday for former Eskimo Chris Thompson. (Edmonton Sun file photo)

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:16 PM ET

The Edmonton Eskimos' first move inside the CFL's free-agency window had nothing to do with free agents at all.

The team traded wide receiver Maurice Mann to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats for all-star defensive back Chris Thompson, who began his CFL career in Edmonton in 2007.

The New Orleans, La., native had some help celebrating his return to the Green and Gold on Tuesday -- make that Fat Tuesday -- learning of the trade smack dab in the middle of Mardi Gras.

"I'm glad to be back," Thompson said from his cell- phone in the French Quarter. "It's Mardi Gras day in New Orleans ... I'm at a parade right now."

Although it was officially his off-season, the CFL player found himself in the centre of the football universe this month.

"I was in Miami last weekend for Super Bowl weekend," said the six-foot, 189-pound Nicholls State product who cheered on his hometown Saints to their first Super Bowl, a 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts on Feb. 7.

"When the Saints won the Super Bowl, this whole city just erupted. It's been bananas ever since.

HUGE

"It was huge. This city has been waiting for a Super Bowl championship for many, many years now, and that win just made this whole city come together and it was a beautiful thing, you know?"

As if it wasn't enough cause for jubilation, the championship cheering was rejuvenated the following week with Mardi Gras.

"Everybody down here is in black and gold supporting the Saints," Thompson said. "It's going to be like this for the next couple weeks, I think."

It is quite a turnaround from the outlook New Orleans had for much of the past decade.

"The Saints winning that game, that even helped this city out even more, post-Katrina, because it unified the city even more," he said.

"Now that the Saints won the Super Bowl, it's just a beautiful feeling for the whole city."

Thompson was contacted on his way to the parade Tuesday morning by Ticats head coach Marcel Bellefeuille.

SURPRISE

The trade came as a surprise, given the timing and the fact Thompson wasn't a free agent.

"It's always a surprise when you get traded, but it's part of the business and you've just got to roll with the punches and adapt and keep moving," Thompson said.

"I didn't expect a trade at all. I'm looking forward to coming back to Edmonton, where I started my CFL career."

Traded to Hamilton in 2008, the cornerback was moved to defensive halfback, where he put up career numbers with 60 tackles and 10 pass knockdowns.

He also led the team with nine interceptions, which he returned for 99 yards, on his way to CFL all-star honours.

Last year, Thompson helped the Ticats host their first home playoff game in eight seasons.

"The team came together," he said. "It was like a family over there and guys were accountable to one another and that really paid off for us on the field."

Mann caught 73 passes for 917 yards and six TDs over 15 games last year before a leg injury cut his season short. He was named a CFLPA all-star.


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